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Will Romney Run for President? London Gaffes Do Not matter. Tax Evasion Would

Tom Winnifrith Tuesday 31 July 2012

 

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I am biased. I want the Republicans to pick Ron Paul as their Presidential nominee and for him to thrash Obama, who I despise, in November. Paul will stop all the wars, bring US troops back home, slash Government spending and repeal fascist measures like the Patriot Act. So I would love the current presumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney to come a cropper before he is formerly selected at the GOP convention in Tampa as – in policy terms – I see him as pretty much 100% aligned with Obama.

But the British reaction to his London “gaffes” makes me embarrassed to be British and not embarrassed for Mitt but rather sympathetic. However, there is another matter though where I think (and hope) he does come unstuck – his personal tax position. That is now looking serious enough to potentially derail his Presidential ambitions altogether. That is the real Romney story of the last 2 weeks

Before he arrived in London, Romney said that he wondered if the City was ready for the Games, what with the Border Security threatening to go on strike and G4S not appearing to have security under control. As it happens those are very legitimate points which the UK press had themselves had a field day with. But when Romney makes the same points it is a gaffe, twitter trends with #Romneyshambles and Fleet Street goes on the attack. It is said it is not “Diplomatic.” Maybe but it is fair comment. Is it that outrageous for a politician to tell the truth?

The hypocrisy of Fleet Street is pathetic. More generally I do sort of detect a trend where you are just not allowed to criticise the Games, especially if you are a bloody foreigner. Such a “thought crime” is seen as an insult to our great country or an act of unpatriotic treachery depending on whether you are a bloody foreigner or a Brit. All that Mitt did was raise very legitimate concerns. That is not a gaffe.
And then I see some expert writing on the C4 saying website that it is a good job that David Cameron had not read Romney’s 2010 book “No Apologies” before the two met as it states:

“England (sic) is just a small island. Its roads and houses are small. With few exceptions, it doesn’t make things that people in the rest of the world want to buy. And if it hadn’t been separated from the continent by water, it almost certainly would have been lost to Hitler’s ambitions.”

Ok Beta minus for geography. But the rest of the statement is factually accurate. Our roads and houses are small than those in North America or Australia. We do not make much that the rest of the world wishes to buy and without doubt Hitler would have conquered our small island had it not been for the English Channel. So again why not bash poor old Mitt for telling the truth.

The C4 expert also says that Romney’s comments were playing badly back in the US stating:

Back in the United States, news of Mitt’s gaffe-strewn visit hasn’t gone down well. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said Romney had not just embarassed (sic) himself, telling the Huffington Post: “It’s not good for us as a country – it’s not good for him – but as a country, to have somebody that’s nominated by one of the principal parties to go over and insult everybody.”

Just in case you missed the nuance of this. The British media says that Romney’s gaffes have gone down badly citing as its sole source a leading politician. What many British readers might not pick up on is that Harry Reid is the Senate Majority leader. That is to say he is a Democrat. Romney wants to be the Republican candidate for President. And so Mr Reid is unlikely to praise him. In fact I can find no record of Reid saying anything nice about Romney on any issue ever. So the only evidence C4 can dig up to justify its statement is from an utterly partial source but it does not make it explicitly clear ( how many Brits know what party the Senate Majority leader is from?) as that would rather negate such a grandstanding claim.

It is like me writing in an American paper, justifying a claim that Britain thought that Ed Balls was unfit to be chancellor by saying that George Young Leader of the house said so. I doubt that many Americans know that Sir George is a Tory and Mr Balls is from Labour. Spell that out and it rather undermines the claim that the whole nation holds that view. Although in this case it should.

So on this one I have real sympathy for Romney. But now we turn to his tax returns which he has wriggled and squirmed about releasing. Even now we do not have the full records. What we can see is utterly cringe-making. I bring you here an excerpt from a piece by Bill Buck who is a Democrat strategist but who is bang on the money.

If they gave medals for tax deductions, W. Mitt Romney would get the gold. He managed to pay a tax rate in the low teens – at least for the one year of returns he partially released – while dodging additional taxes with strategies that include keeping offshore bank accounts.

Former Auto Czar Steve Rattner, who did not support the Obama campaign’s initial focus on Romney and his record at Bain Capital, told CNN that in surveying others who work in the private equity sector, he did not know anyone who went so far to avoid releasing tax documents as Romney.

“[Romney] has pushed the envelope all the way to the edge, to his benefit, and I think that Americans would find that pretty distasteful. I think it’s going to make Americans recoil, and that’s why I think he’s not releasing those returns,” said Rattner.

Included in this pushing of the envelope is a $77,000 tax deduction for the care and feeding of a horse. Well, not just any horse. A ballet horse. Dressage is the French name of the sport that is often referred to as horse ballet, an elite equestrian sport. It is also an Olympic sport and Rafalca, the Romneys’ dancing horse, is competing.
Regardless of whether the horse earns an Olympic medal, it has certainly helped Romney earn the Gold Medal in Tax Deductions. Most American families do not make the $77,000 in a year, let alone have $77,000 to take care of a horse.

To see how Romney arrived at the large deduction, let’s look at how Rafalca’s needs stack up against those of the average American family:

Sheltering the average family for a year: $16,352; sheltering Rafalca: $28,800. Clothing the average family: $1,142; clothing Rafalca: $10,000. Annual health care costs for the average American family: $1,557; health care costs for Rafalca: $2,000. Transporting the average American family: $7,164; transporting Rafalca: $15,420.

The comparison is striking. Families cannot receive tax deductions for their basic necessities, yet Mr. Romney claims massive deductions for the care and feeding of a horse. It is fine to own and care for a horse. It is another to use it as a tax dodge. Even more so, it is distasteful to aspire to public service while living such a double standard. Perhaps Romney should adopt a new campaign slogan: My Horse is Worth More Than Your Kid! He might find the honest airing of his beliefs refreshing.

Ends.

Talk about them and us. But Romney’s gee gee is the least of his problems although if he is the Republican nominee you can bet your last dollar that the Democrats will mention his horse’s tax deductable clothing bill at every opportunity.

What could sink him (Romney not the horse) are his Swiss bank accounts and his 2010 tax returns. Mitt has belatedly released some of his 2010 tax details but not all. In 2009 the IRS (America’s HMRC) granted an amnesty to those who ‘fessed up to Swiss accounts which the IRS reckoned were used to dodge tax. Pay a fine, close the account and we shall call it quits said the IRS. So did Romney take advantage of this amnesty as we do know that he now does not use such accounts?

He will not say. Was he effectively fined for tax evasion? He will not say.
He will in the end have to answer. I ask you is a man who has accepted that he evaded tax and paid a fine for it a credible candidate for President? If there was no issue here Mitt could clear it up at once by releasing the files. The more he delays the more folks will think there is an issue.

If I was a Republican delegate going to Tampa my big fear would be that the GOP selects Romney and then the IRS/Swiss bank account issue blows up after the convention but before the General Election, so making the despicable Obama a shoe-in. You see the issue here and this one will run and run until Romney either shows that there is no issue or admits that there is and has to stand aside.

If that happens we get an open convention. Anyone can throw their hat into the ring. But who – after Romney has the most committed delegates by a mile? The Saintly Dr Paul. Who has the organisation which has ensured that in a free vote many other delegates currently tied to Romney will swing one way for certain? The Saintly Dr Paul.

Maybe I am so partial that I am clutching at straws here. But do not right off the saintly Dr Paul yet. Come on Mitt let’s see ALL those tax returns.

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About Tom Winnifrith
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Tom Winnifrith is the editor of TomWinnifrith.com. When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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